German photographer David Jazay’s collection Dublin Before The Tiger collects, with incredibly beautiful detail, images of Dublin’s inner city from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Jazay noted the city that he had come to love was pregnant with change – some for better and some for worse – and set about documenting this moment in time of our city.
David Jazay is taking part in the Street Stories Festival, taking place between Friday 26 September and Sunday 28 September with talks, live music, walking tours, stalls, films and exhibitions. David Jazay’s talk takes place on Friday evening. Full details of the event are found here.
You first visited Dublin 1982 I believe. What was your situation then – were you a student or a photographer professionally then?
As a 16-year old exchange student, I couldn’t help but to fall in love with my school (Newpark Comprehensive), my lovely host family, and subsequently with Dublin, and Ireland. I had just started out, teaching myself photography on my dad’s old twin-lens Rolleiflex, and I spent as much time as I could walking around Dublin’s inner city.
What attracted you to the place initially and made you come back throughout the 1980s and early 1990s? It must have been extremely different to Germany at that time.
The wealth in history, layer upon layer in these once grand, now dilapidated Georgian buildings, their stark isolated shapes standing out against the sky, the bold colours advertising the lives and businesses of their last inhabitants. The friendliness, warmth, humour and resilience of the people I met. It was a city that didn’t seem to know how beautiful it really was.
Part of the reason you took these shots was that felt that a big change was about to happen. What gave you this sense about Dublin specifically? Was it perhaps a reflection of things that were happening in your own country with the Berlin Wall?
It was apparent from the demoltion, the frequent fires and so on. I felt much admiration and sympathy for the last people holding out, on and around the quays, amidst long stretches of depopulated wasteland. Dublin had such a great architectural heritage, but bear in mind this was the 1980s: there was still a very real threat of wholesale demolition and radical re-development. Probably, as a foreigner, I was more appreciative of the beautiful traditions of Irish craftsmanship, such as the signage, and the bold color schemes on some buildings. And I enjoyed chatting with locals, the shopkeepers, kids playing in the streets, and unforgettable local characters. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that back home, the fall of the Berlin Wall took me quite by surprise.
Tell me about Dublin Before The Tiger – what is the concept behind it? And tell me what are your plans for exhibiting in Ireland?
I want this work to be a testament to the lives and efforts of generations of Dubliners, the way they shaped the city, their struggles and achievements, their beauty and dignity. The response to my project on the internet has been truly overwhelming, and I feel very positive about bringing the project to Dublin soon. I’ll be in Dublin for PhotoIreland in July, to drum up support from curators and institutions and to find sponsors. The exhibition should be able to accommodate for large prints, as I want Dubliners to fully experience this new window onto our collective past. It was a tremendous labour of love, for I city I have always loved and still do. I’m hoping someone who can make this event happen will get in touch through my website or, better still, meet me in person, when I am in Dublin for the PhotoIreland Festival around Temple Bar.
You had worked previously on a film about inner city Dublin – *Bargaintown* – can you tell me about that? Is it available online?
Bargaintown: Dublin, Liffey Quays is a feature-length 16mm documentary, shot in beautiful black and white, with hilarious and heartwarming interview sequences with local residents, and some great musical performances. It is currently being restored and will be re-launched shortly in co-operation with the Irish Film Institute. Dubliners can look forward to revisiting the auction houses, antique sellers, working men’s club, and the unforgettable “Mad Barber” of Ellis Quay, the way they were in 1988.
Can you tell us about the technical side of the photography? Obviously the original photographs are analog but is there digital technology used in the presentation now?
For maximum detail and resolution, I shot on fine-grained medium format film. With the requisite computing power finally available, many images, particularly the large panoramas, are now being digitally combined into huge composites that have the scope to show a whole street in its entire width, yet afford the detail of seeing individual signage and minute architectural detail. The resulting images equal up to 700 megapixels. I believe this has never been attempted before, not just for Dublin but for any city. Provided they are printed large, audiences will have a new, crystal-clear gateway to immerse themselves into Ireland’s cultural heritage, as it manifested itself in the everyday lives of our parents and grandparents.
You can find out more about David’s work at davidjazay.com
Words: Ian Lamont
Photography: David Jazay
Featured Image: Heather’s Footwear, Arran Quay, Dublin, 1988
Inserts: Mac’s Home Bakery, North King Street, Dublin &
Patrick Gallagher of Martin+Joyce’s Butcher Shop Benburb Street, Dublin